By Paul Bonnette
For the past forty years, Shipwreck Island Waterpark has been the place to plunge, dunk, slide, swim and float in Panama City Beach. Known for its famous water rides such as the Zoom Flume, Lazy River, the Wave Pool, and many more, Shipwreck Island has three million gallons of water for you to splash around in.
This fifteen-acre tropical waterpark has been a must-do attraction for visitors and locals of all ages for decades: on April 29th Shipwreck Island opened the gates for its 40th anniversary season. Although 2023 will be Shipwreck Island’s 40th anniversary season, plans go back even further to the developer, visionary, and builder of Miracle Strip Amusement Park, James Lark. According to General Manager Buddy Wilkes who has been with the family-owned company for decades, Shipwreck Island started with one single ride.
“It started in 1976 when James Lark built the Zoom Flume. If you traveled the interstate highway system, you would see family RV campgrounds and they would all have a waterslide.”
This gave Lark a crazy idea for an attraction, which would become the Zoom Flume, which, although updated, is still one of the most popular rides at Shipwreck. Over the next several years, even more rides were added including the Rapid River Run and Skull Island pool with Bumper Boats. According to Wilkes, in 1983, these rides would merge into the tropical-themed park we know today, but with a slightly different name: “So we had three water attractions and we called the whole thing Whata-water-wonderwold.”
Today, forty years later, Shipwreck Island is a true thrill-seeking family destination with something for every member of the family. In honor of the 40th anniversary and the 2023 season, Shipwreck Island is unveiling new additions including paintings showcasing Panama City Beach history as well as a brand new area for little ones called Splash Cove.
For those looking to unwind and fuel up during their visit, Shipwreck has several food and beverage options available including The Galley, The Ship’s Grill, Swashbuckler’s Beer Shack, Island Ice Cream and more. The Pirate’s Plunder Gift Shop is also available for plenty of souvenirs.
According to Wilkes, he is looking forward to another busy spring and summer season, but for those looking to visit during slower times with fewer people, he has some suggestions.
“Sunday is typically a slower day. We also get a lot of people in the morning including all the season pass holders [who] will come early and be gone probably by 2 p.m. If you come in the latter part of the day, you are getting a park that is half full.”
For forty years, as the temperatures start heating up, Shipwreck Island has been the place to cool down and splash under as your cares float away. So the only question is, “Water you waiting for?”
Shipwreck Island Admission is:
• $49.99 plus tax for persons above 50 inches tall
• $39.99 plus tax for persons below 50 inches tall.
• Children below 35 inches tall are admitted free.
• Seniors 62 and older are $36.99 plus tax.
Shipwreck Island is open now through August 6, Shipwreck Island will be open seven days a week. The park will also be open Saturdays and Sundays in August leading up to Labor Day weekend.
For those looking to visit throughout the summer, Season Passes are available for sale for $129.99 which includes discounts for bring-a-friend days. For more information on park hours and tickets visit www.shipwreckisland.com.